Best beaches in Cornwall
Cornwall is famous for the quality and variety of its beaches. The long, exposed stretches of sand on the north coast, such as Perranporth and Godrevy, provide excellent surfing conditions and are great places to walk on a stormy winter's day. The more sheltered sandy coves of the south coast, such as Porthcurno and Praa Sands, offer excellent swimming and protection from cold northerly winds. Remote beaches such as Harlyn and Kynance offer the chance to really get away from it all, while bustling town beaches, such as Marazion and Porthmeor, are great places to spend the day, with plenty of cafes, restaurants and galleries within easy walking distance. Here we have picked out our 'Top Ten beaches in Cornwall.' Browse our other 'Top Ten' lists for more great ideas about what to do on your holiday.
A short walk over the cliffs from Land's End, Sennen is a charming fishing cove with a long, sandy beach that offers excellent swimming and consistent surf. At low tide the beach joins up with its neighbour to provide over a mile of golden sand, so that even on hot summer days it is usually possible to find plenty of space to spread out. There are a couple of cafes, the Old Success pub and two surf shops within easy walking distance of the car park. Surf lessons and board hire are available and the beach is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer months.
The northernmost and most dramatic section of the three-mile long sandy beach that stretches from Hayle to Godrevy Head. Godrevy takes the brunt of the Atlantic swell and is one of the more exposed beaches on the north coast, holding big swells and yielding a rugged splendour on a stormy winter's day. The beach terminates with a low rocky headland that offers great views of Godrevy lighthouse, which was the real-life inspiration for Virginia Woolfe's novel To The Lighthouse. There is an excellent cafe in the National Trust car park located just behind the dunes.
Praa Sands is a medium-sized sandy beach located on the more sheltered south coast between Marazion and Porthleven. Popular with surfers of all levels, Praa Sands works best with a southerly swell and a northerly wind. In summer the sea is usually flat, making Praa Sands an excellent choice for swimmers and children. There are plenty of facilities, including shops, cafes and toilets, and several campsites within easy walking distance of the beach.
Perranporth has the feel of a typical seaside holiday village, buzzing with shops, cafes and pubs. The beach, which stretches two miles at low tide, features decent surf and a natural open air swimming pool. This fills with seawater at high tide, which is then warmed by the sun during the day making it perfect for younger visitors. The more accessible, southern end of the beach can get very crowded in summer, but the crowds can be easily avoided by a short walk away from the village in the direction of Penhale Sands. Perranporth is patrolled by lifeguards in summer, who usually designate two safe swimming areas.
Marazion lies at the far end of a long expanse of pebbly sand that stretches all the way back to Penzance. At the Marazion end the beach is backed by dunes and looks out towards the iconic St Michael's Mount, accessible via a causeway that is exposed at low tide. A place of moods, the south-facing beach switches from being calm and sheltered and perfect for families to receiving the brunt of strong southerly gales, making it popular with windsurfers. The sand gives way to rocky coves at the town end of the beach, where facilities abound in what is considered to be one of the oldest towns in England.
Porthmeor, the most westerly of the beaches in St Ives, is one of the few in Penwith that has full protection from the prevailing southwesterly winds. A curving, sandy bay that picks up plenty of swell, Porthmeor beach is popular with surfers and usually offers a number of peaks that cater to all abilities. Overlooked by the imposing Tate gallery and with former artist's studios (now holiday flats) backing right onto the beach, Porthmeor has plenty of character and is well served by a cafe, beach huts and a small car park. It is only a short walk from the centre of St Ives.
It is easy to see why Kynance Cove, located two miles from Lizard point, is one of the most photographed beaches in Cornwall. White sand, brilliant turquoise water, islands, caves and stunning serpentine rock formations all serve to make this one of the prettiest places around. Popular since Victorian times, Kynance Cove has recently been made more accessible, thanks to a National Trust toll road and car park. However, it is still at least half an hour from anywhere, which makes checking the very inconsistent, but occasionally good, surf something of a mission.
Porthcurno beach is truly stunning. Nestled among tall granite cliffs, the beach is part of a wider bay that opens up at low tide to reveal a curve of golden sand that stretches from the Minack Theatre to the Logan Rock, site of an Iron Age cliff castle. Located just around the corner from Land's End, Porthcurno has long been the place where telecommunications cables arrive from America, and they can still sometimes be seen poking up through the sand. Porthcurno picks up more swell than other beaches further up the south coast, which can translate into good surf on a big low tide, although the waves tend to be fast and hollow making them unsuitable for beginners. Porthcurno beach is easily accessible and popular with families, although at high tide a steep shelf means that swimming can be dangerous. The beach faces south and is backed by steep cliffs, which offer good protection from northerly winds.
Harlyn, on the north coast near Padstow, is a spacious, sandy beach, popular with families and surfers. The coast path crosses the beach on its way to the famous Bedruthan Steps, although care should be taken at high tide as the sand can be almost completely covered. Lifeguards patrol the beach in summer, making it a safe swimming option, while winter storm swells can bring good quality waves, nicely protected from south westerly gales. A large car park above the beach and some basic toilets are the only facilities. Dogs are welcome on the beach all year round.
Mawgan Porth, just four miles north of Newquay and the closest place to Newquay airport, is a small village with a big sandy beach that offers a welcome respite to anyone who can't quite handle Newquay's crowds. The beach is in a large sheltered bay at the bottom of steep cliffs, with numerous rock pools and caves to explore. It also picks up plenty of Atlantic swell, making it popular with families and surfers alike. The village, although not overly commercial, offers a good selection of places to eat, drink and sleep.